By Terry Pratchett
I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett. I have read all of the his books multiple times, watched most of the movies, and quoted lines with my husband. I won’t pretend to be a super fan, but I can safely say that I am well familiar with Discworld. Pratchett was well known for co-opting tropes, genres, and individual jokes to fit into the Disc. It worked quite well most of the time. Wyrd Sisters is one of the better examples of this appropriation in Pratchett’s canon.
The first time I read Wyrd Sisters, I did not get all of the jokes. At the time I had read little Shakespeare and seen almost nothing of the Marx Brothers films, so I simply did not have the background to get the references. There are still a few jokes that I am positive must be referring to something, I just don’t know what. Perhaps I’ll get the joke in another few years.
All that to say that, like Jasper Fforde’s work, Pratchett is most entertaining when you are fairly well read in the first place. Wyrd Sisters focuses the most on Shakepearian jokes. Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and especially The Scottish Play are made heavy use of both in the overall story and the theatrical productions in the book.
The plot is a very, very loose retelling of Macbeth from the perspective of the witches. And by loose I mean there are constant references to it but none of the characters have the same motivations as the play and therefore act differently. There’s a strong element of Hamlet in there as well. Both involve regicide, guilt, and vengeance, so Pratchett pulls liberally from both.
A lot of puns are involved. I mean a lot. No, more than that. Yeah, that many. No wait, add a few more. There are so many puns and references that it can actually distract the reader from the story. This is my main criticism of the book. References and quotations are fun. I use both constantly. But if I am trying to tell a story, they can only be a detriment after a certain point. It’s certainly entertaining but it is not helpful. Adding in the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplain references compound this issue.
On the other hand, I enjoy the fact that Pratchett writes for an audience that will get all of these references. Sure, this is a silly and light read. Light and silly does not have to equal a stupid reader.
Having read the witches series several times, it struck me this time around that Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are not very developed characters in comparison to later works. I suppose this is only to be expected. In particular, their behavior is more impulsive than in the future. Part of this, I suspect, is that the later books are from the perspective of younger witches and therefore have a different hue to them. Character development is really fun to watch.
I would certainly suggest this book to people, though perhaps not as a starting book in Discworld. On the other hand, if you are looking for a light read this is a very good option.